THE BLACKET HOTEL
For the serious shopper, the 42-room Blacket Hotel is right in the middle of Sydney's shopping district. Designer labels Chanel, Lacroix, Vuitton, Hermes and Cartier are all just around the corner on Castlereagh Street, between Market and King. The Blacket was opened in mid-2000 and is housed in the refurbished 1850s ANZ Bank site. The building was designed by one of the 19th century's most prolific Sydney architects, Edmond Samuel Blacket, hence its name.
The refit combines old and new with the original features of Blacket's neo-classical work still intact. The new designers have used creams, whites dark browns and blacks in the interior, giving a clean and crisp feel.
The hotel is one of the more reasonably priced luxury stays in the city with the basic double room costing as little as A$210 per night (and even cheaper through the web). The rooms on the higher floors have better views. And a luxury suite with a private terrace and rooftop spa is just over A$400 ($302) per night. What we like about the hotel is that, despite its central location, it is well hidden. People passing by are unaware that behind the walls lies a trendy restaurant called Minc, and a basement bar in the old bank vault called Minc Lounge. Travellers regularly rate the Blacket for its attention to detail, the spacious rooms and its proximity to the heart of the city.
Rates: From A$210 to A$410
Where: 70 King Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: Tel: +612 9279 3030;
email: [email protected]
Like a few of Sydney's newer hotels, The Establishment was opened around the time of the Olympics Games in 2000. It has since become a hangout for the city's bankers and financial high-flyers, being located right in the middle of the business district, just a few minutes walk from Circular Quay.
The Establishment is the first hotel owned and designed by the Hemmes family which initially made its name in fashion boutiques but has now moved to upmarket restaurants and bars. The hotel sprawls over several floors of this low-rise downtown building - a building which once served as the headquarters for the political publication The Bulletin in the 1930s. There are now 35 luxury guest rooms and no less than three hip and happening bars - the Establishment Bar, the Tank Bar, and the sumptuous Hemmesphere Bar. The flagship restaurant, est, was conceived by Melbourne interior design team Hecker Phelan & Guthrie, the firm behind several of the city's top eateries including the Longrain.
The spacious guest rooms come in two decors: bleached American white oak with ivory linen; or dark Japanese timber floorboards with ash-coloured woollen throws. The only drawback at The Establishment is that the rooms don't have any views, so the best rooms - if you can't fork out for a penthouse - are the Establishment City rooms.
Rates: From A$290 to A$995
Where: 5 Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: Tel: +612 9240 3100;
email: [email protected]
You don't get more boutique than a single luxury suite with its own plunge pool, sundeck and gymnasium. Sydney's mooghotel has been designed with rock stars in mind - right down to the fully-equipped digital recording studio entered via doors off the pool deck. The hotel owners recommend you mix a few tunes and then dive into the pool to hear the track through underwater speakers. Then again, you could enjoy the outdoor area in more conventional ways - by swimming against the powerful jets in the pool for an aquatic workout or just relaxing in the jacuzzi and watching your favourite DVD projected on to the surrounding glass walls.
Inside, the lavishness continues. The suite has a separate dining/lounge area, his and her bathrooms with a Lavasca freestanding bath and a massage area. The rooms are wired-for-sound with Bang & Olufsen and plasma audio visual equipment with AMX remote control. Guests can order food from the adjoining moog wine+food, a vibrant European style restaurant and bar.
It's the added luxuries that make this place special, including a 24-hour butler service and the chauffer-driven Jaguar XJR100. The mooghotel has featured in more than its fair share of "top" lists as ranked by Conde Nast and other elite travel media. The type of clientele that the property attracts is evident in some of its house rules: while guests can apply for pets to stay, children cannot be accommodated.
Rates: From A$990
Where: 413 Bourke Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Contact: Tel: +612 8351 7186; email: [email protected]
THE OBSERVATORY HOTEL
Billed as a hotel where tradition meets modern efficiency, The Observatory is a swank property with just 100 rooms. It is another in the expanding list of Orient Express hotels that is attracting discerning travellers and winning awards hand over fist.
The Observatory is on Kent Street just below the site of the country's first, and still functioning, space telescope. The building is new, but has been decorated with tapestries, mahogany and Persian rugs to give it an elegant yesteryear feel. The lobby is intimate, and the rooms are decorated in pastels and floral prints with oriental-style coffee tables and handcrafted armoire cabinets. The top dollar Observatory Suite has a four-poster bed and walls that are lined with art. The indoor swimming pool is a knock-out with its dark-blue ceiling painted with stars.
The hotel has its own restaurant called Galileo serving French cuisine with a Japanese influence. Or take a stroll down the road to Kings Wharf, a new strip of top restaurants and clubs where Sydney's handsome and influential gather.
Rates: From A$380 to A$970
Where: 89-113 Kent Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: Tel: +612 9256 2222;
email: [email protected]
If you like the Observatory and plan a trip out of town to the Blue Mountains, make sure you stay at another of Orient Express' boutique hotels called Lilianfel's. This five-star European style country guesthouse is perched on the magnificent Jamison Valley and overlooks a vast national park. The home was originally built in 1889 and now has 85 large rooms decorated in Victorian elegance. There's a fantastic day spa specializing in pampering and detoxifying guests.
Lilianfels Avenue, Echo Point, Katoomba
Tel: +612 4780 1200
Okay, so maybe the Park Hyatt is a favourite for business travellers too. But you can't blame them for choosing this smaller, more distinguished hotel over some of the bigger chains in the financial district. Park Hyatt has 158 rooms and is away from the hubbub of the CBD. It has one of the most spectacular views in the city – curving around the waterfront on the West side of Circular Quay. At least half of the rooms overlook the harbour so, if they have the availability, ask for a room with a view.
The Park Hyatt gets a lot of repeat customers and the long-serving staff make a point of getting to know their regulars. It's not uncommon to be greeted by name every time you walk in and out of the place.
The hotel was refurbished in late 1998 and has a more typical luxury hotel décor than some of the other boutique properties featured here. The rooms are decorated in ivory and sandstone tones, and the bathrooms are wall-to-wall cream marble. The double-ended tubs are deep and welcoming.
One of the highlights of the hotel is its restaurant - the harbourkitchen&bar - which has an uninterrupted view of the Opera House. FinanceAsia magazine holds its annual gala dinner here each February, and our readers rave about it. The produce-driven menu feature the rustic flavours of the wood fired oven, rotisserie and charcoal grill. This, together with an open plan "show" kitchen, guarantees a visual and mouth-watering feast
Rates: From A$485 to A$925
Where: 7 Hickson Road, The Rocks,
Sydney NSW 2000
Contact: Tel: +612 9241 1234;
email: [email protected]
If you can get your tongue around the address of the W Sydney - located in the harbourside suburb of Wolloomooloo - this has to be one of the best boutique spots in town. The W is right on the water, in fact the hotel is a retrofitted 90-year-old dock and warehouse. That means every one of the 105 super hip rooms overlooks the harbour. The modern urban design is evident the instant you walk into the lobby where the latest lounge music plays against a backdrop of criss-crossing metal rafters overhead and red suede ottomans at your feet. The lighting is supplied by giant metal sun lamps giving a theatrical feel to the space.
Some rooms are more open and airy than others, particularly the loft-style ones where the bed is upstairs on a mezzanine floor. The rooms have CD libraries and ultra-chic bathrooms with silver reflective tiles and glass benchtops.
The Water Bar downstairs specialises in martinis and is a magnet for Sydney's young and beautiful people. On the wharf are a string of top quality restaurants. Otto Ristorante Italiano and China Doll are two favourites. Otto's serves some of the best entrees and fish dishes in the city and, with its Westerly aspect, escapes the winds coming off the harbour. It's a great place for outdoor dining all year round. The W is on the east side of the city and from here you can access the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the restaurants and nightclubs of Oxford Street.
Rates: From A$252
Where: 6 Cowper Wharf Rd, Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Contact: Tel: +612 9331 9000; email: [email protected]